Friday, October 5, 2012

How to not make your waitress cry and not piss off the kitchen...

Tonight at work was, by far, the busiest we've ever been since the restaurant reopened; worse than the Sunday, after church lunch crowd and worse than when we're in-house catering for a group of 20+ while being open for normal service. It. Was. Insane. Would you like to know why it was so chaotic? If you don't want to know, I suggest you stop reading. Seriously!? If you don't care, why are you even on this site? Geeze. If you do, then you're in luck!

Two large groups made reservations for this evening. One group of 12 and another group of 16. Reservations were set at 6:30pm for both parties. Fine. Nothing we can't handle. Both parties were asked to preorder. This is fairly simple to do as our menu has 7 meal options. The food would still be cooked to order, but as much prep and pre-assembly as possible could be done ahead of time. Both groups declined to preorder. Uh, okay. Thanks then. Meanieheads. On top of these 2 groups, our 80 seat restaurant was packed solid (with my visiting and local family included). There were people on the lawn waiting to be seated, as well. We had 4 waitresses, a hostess, a runner/back waitress, and Leigh (the boss). There were 3 of us in the kitchen and Luz (our fabulous dishwasher and all-around helper) in the dish pit. We would have done well to have 2 more runners, but anyway...

The group of 12's order came back first. Ginni noted any special requests or changes, condensed the ticket, and went on her way. Their order went fairly smooth, but since they didn't preorder it took us a while to get it all out. They didn't really complain much and Ginni did her best to refill drinks and stall them. Move stage left to the group of 16. It took them all for-freaking-ever to figure out what they wanted. Most of them made changes or special requests (then denied those changes when they got their food) so Valis couldn't really condense the ticket. Then they got angry at her when the food didn't come out in less than 20 minutes and that it didn't come out all at once. Eventually they revoked their dessert order, glared at Valis as she refilled drinks, muttered how awful their service was, and left her a crappy tip. One of the ladies- I'm assuming the one that set up the reservation- attempted to rip Clyde's (other boss) head off about the situation. I'm not sure what he said to rebut , but he came back to the kitchen laughing. I took that as him handling the whole thing very well. But poor Valis! She ran her butt off and did everything right. I honestly don't think these people would have been happy if we'd given the food to them for free. They were that bad.

So, here are a few pointers if you are ever involved in a large group at a restaurant:
  • Make reservations at least 24-hours in advanced. If it isn't possible for you to reserve that far advance, make your reservations as far out from the time you wish to be there as possible.
  • If you're asked to preorder your food please, for the love of all that is good in the world, just do it. Even if it means you have to call the other people in your group. It's okay if you make changes to it later, but this way the kitchen staff at least has an idea of what they can expect.
  • Be patient. Yes, you should expect great service no matter what. But your food will not come out at the same time as the table of 4 that sat down 5 minutes after you. It's just not going to happen. 
  • If you have children in your party, you may ask that they receive their food first. Most children's plates are less involved and easy to put together quickly.
  • Be nice to your waitstaff. This is a good rule for EVERYONE going out to eat, whether you're in a big group or not. But cut them a little slack, especially if you can see that they are running around like mad trying to meet your needs. 
  • If you have a genuine complaint or concern (and you're not just being a picky S.O.B.) politely ask to speak to a manager or owner. Don't make a scene, mutter under your breath, or generally act a fool for the entire restaurant to see. 
  • Try to be understanding. Again, if there is something that is really unacceptable, see the previous bullet. 
  • Mistakes in your order may not always be your server's fault. There's a 50/50 chance that it was a kitchen error. 
  • Tip well! In most cases, your server will not be given other tables in order to tend to your group's needs properly. This means that as long as you're there taking up space in the restaurant, you are her only source of income. Many times gratuity is included in your bill, but be sure to check. And don't be a cheap-ass. If everyone in your group shells out an extra dollar on top of that pre-added gratuity, it can make a world of difference. 20% minimum of the total bill is a good starting place, depending on how well you were served. 
  • It's okay for you to smile and be polite to ALL staff you see or come in contact with, even if they aren't specifically waiting on you. You won't burst into flames. I promise.
  • Ask. Don't make demands. 
  • The terms "Please" and "Thank You" will be helpful to you and should be used at every opportunity! 
One would think that those points would really be common sense. But those of us that have worked in or are currently working in a service industry know better. Be considerate!


PS Picture credit:  
MisterPants's Etsy Shop-

PPS As I've had to delete a commenter's rude and hateful comments TWICE, I feel the need to mention this: What I've said above comes from my sole experience in the restaurants I've worked in. I've worked in small-town, locally owned restaurants only. My experiences are based purely on that. So if you don't agree with me, that's perfectly okay. But this is how I saw things at the time. My views have changed since then, in certain respects, but I write in the moment so I will not change what's already been written. (edited to add this disclaimer on January 26, 2013 by Elle)

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